Last Thursday night were the finals of the competition, which promotes female bartenders from top cocktail spots across the nation and raises funds for breast cancer awareness. The event was founded by libation angels Lynnette Marrero and Ivy Mix of LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails) NYC. There were four judges, cocktail industry dignitaries Dale Degroff, Julie Reiner and Audrey Saunders, as well as celebrity chef Amanda Freitag. In each round, the competitors, all regional finalists, raced to execute four different cocktails (taken from a list of 50 standard recipes), one chosen by each judge. The bartender who makes them the fastest and most complete in flavor and overall execution (don't forget your garnishes, ladies) wins the round. Our winsome MCs for the evening were top industry personalities Simon Ford and Chris Patino. And let's not forget the tireless barbacking duties shared by some of NYC's finest, such as Michael Neff of Ward III and Rum House and the lovely Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero themselves.
While the competition is the main event, there's lots happening on the sidelines. This year it took place at the Prince George Ballroom in Murray Hill, which is big enough to allow for several brand-sponsored cocktail booths surrounding the stage. Money is raised through entry fees as well as the selling of raffle tickets, t-shirts and other merch. Here I am getting my rack's worth of raffle tickets.
The brand representatives were definitely an enthusiastic bunch. Here are the ladies of Lillet in their roller derby finest, worn the whole night (all five hours + !) with smiles to match. That's William Grant brand ambassador Charlotte Voisey and Lillet ambassador Amanda Boccato standing.
This was fun, but also quite the feat of endurance for all involved. It took seven rounds (four regular, two semifinals and one final) in over five hours, including over an hour of preliminary face-offs. Lots of booze to be had, but sadly no water except the one fountain or some plain Perrier (if you asked those making spritzy drinks nicely.) Small bites were provided by Viktor and Spoils and Pies n Thighs, though we could probably have done with more snacks. We even experienced a toilet paper and hand towel emergency. So for those of us who stuck it all the way through, it was as though we were living in an alcoholic version of desert island survival - booze, booze everywhere, but not a drop to drink! At one point, beer was our best source of nourishment.
Still, we happily made it through. In the end, it was down to two feisty ladies from Houston in first and second place respectively: Yael Vengroff of Fitgerald's (though she was one of NYC's own for a while) and Alba Huerta from Anvil and Refuge.
They say everyone's a winner, but in this case, it was truer than ever. I was tired from watching the event. So I can only imagine how hard everyone worked as competitors, barbacks, judges (that's a lot of cocktail to evaluate!), MCs, promoters, ambassadors, food vendors and everyone working the merchandise and check in. You were all amazing. We thank you from the bottom of our busts!